out of Five
Running time: 84
Casa de mi Padre has a handful of great production value jokes and an amusing central performance from Ferrell, but the script is disappointing and the film largely plays out like an extended comedy sketch that quickly wears out its welcome.
What's it all about?
Directed by Matt Piedmont, Casa de mi Padre (translation: House of my
Father) is a comedy pastiche of Mexican exploitation movies with the characters speaking Spanish throughout more or less the entire film. Will Ferrell stars as rancher Armando Alvarez, the good natured second son of ranch owner Miguel (Pedro Armendariz Jr), whose favoured first son Raul (Diego Luna) arrives home with gorgeous fiancee Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), prompting Armando to fall instantly in love with her.
However, it turns out that Sonia is the niece of local drug cartel boss La Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and that Raul is scheming to steal La Onza's customers as a way to save Miguel's ranch from bankruptcy.
With the DEA turning a blind eye, an all-out war soon erupts between Raul and La Onza, with Armando caught in the middle.
The main joke of the film is that Mexican exploitation movies (as well as telenovelas, soaps etc) all have rock bottom production values and little to no regard for things like continuity, plot, set design, special effects and so on. To that end, there are a number of very funny production value jokes (most notably the fake horses, an extended sequence where none of the eyelines match up and a hilarious gag involving a savage attack by a wild animal), but other than a ridiculously cheesy and very funny sex scene, shoddy production values are pretty much the film's only target.
Ferrell's Spanish is more than passable and he delivers an amusing performance, earnestly giving all his second language dialogue in deadpan fashion. There's also strong comic support from Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal (both hamming it up to ridiculous effect), while Ferrell turns out to have surprisingly decent chemistry with Rodriguez.
Unfortunately, production value gags aside, the script itself isn't all that funny (in either language) and there's no comic pay-off to having the characters speak Spanish (not even a good lost-in-translation gag), so you're left wondering what the point of it all was. On top of that, the majority of the other jokes fall painfully flat and some are badly misjudged, such as a bloody shoot-out at a wedding.
In addition, comedy genius Nick Offerman (aka Parks & Rec's Ron
Swanson) is badly underused as the DEA agent and it's hard to care all that much about the characters, since the film quickly starts to feel like a comedy sketch that has out-stayed its welcome.
Despite a handful of good jokes, Casa de mi Padre is ultimately something of a disappointment, thanks to a lazy script and a general lack of ideas beyond the production value gags.